View Full Version : Who uses Sketchup?

Al Launier
07-27-2017, 9:31 AM
I've attempted several times to learn how to use Sketchup to design my woodworking projects. Each time, after I've been working on a lesson, or drafting a project, I start thinking "what am I really gaining vs. doing this manually?". It's so much faster to draw it up manually, if it even needs to be drawn at all, especially for hobbyist woodworking projects!

I realize that Sketchup is a very popular software, that for larger projects it may be worth the effort, that duplication or modifications are quickly made, errors may be avoided, that it is "universally" accepted for larger driven projects, etc, etc.

Now I do have to admit that it's harder at my age (almost 75) to retain the details of each lesson, but I do have some background with software-based designs, i.e. over 100 homes/remodeling using Chief Architect. I chose CA over various CAD software because CA is object-based making it fast to work with rather than textual-based which took a lot of time.

So, who uses Sketchup or why not?

Matt Day
07-27-2017, 10:19 AM
I've been using it for years. Much faster and more accurate (i.e. Less mistakes) for me. After you get the hang of it, it's easy but getting to that point might be difficult if you're not a 3D computer type thinker.

But if it's easier to do it by hand and you don't want to spend the time learning it, that's great. Don't feel pressured by anyone to change it - if it ain't broke...

Prashun Patel
07-27-2017, 10:26 AM
If building for yourself the benefit is less than if you are building for customers. For a hobbyist who sometimes does commissions, it is invaluable for communication and design tweaking.

Steve Peterson
07-27-2017, 11:30 AM
I usually use paper for drawing out the basic design. I would still calculate most of the design on scrap paper before entering anything into CAD. The paper sketches are good enough for me, so CAD is an unneeded step. My feeling is that CAD is only useful if you have to present the design to a customer or if you are using a CNC router.


Dave Richards
07-27-2017, 12:18 PM
Al, I'm sure you already know I use SketchUp mainly for woodworking projects although not exclusively and you may know that I'm a authorized SketchUp trainer. If it's something you want to get to terms with, feel free to get in touch and I'll help you.

That said, if it doesn't really interest you, there's no point in beating yourself up about it. There's no pressure to use SketchUp or any other CAD software. If you can get what you need with a pencil stub on the back of an envelope, stick with that. Do what works for you.

glenn bradley
07-27-2017, 1:16 PM
If paper and pencil meet your needs I would keep on keepin' on and not give it a second thought. My years of experience with drawing / diagramming applications actually worked against me when trying to learn SketchUp. Once I got past that (with the generous help of our own Dave Richards) I find it quite valuable and a real time saver.

Complex joinery, angles, dimensions and so forth are a breeze with SU. So much quicker than trial and error in the shop. I also get a lot of value out of it for "what if" testing for scale, relative dimensions, leg thickness, curve variance, overhand, drawer height stepping and all sorts of stuff.

Chris Padilla
07-27-2017, 3:06 PM
It takes some getting used to but if you can get someone reasonably-versed in it to show you some tricks, they'll carry you a long ways. I find that I can eliminate A LOT of mistakes when I build up a project in Sketch-Up. There are simple things like allowing for a rabbet or extra material for a tenon and it can even help you figure out funky angles. One of my favorite things is using a plug-in known as Cut-List that will layout the parts on a sheet of plywood and do a pretty good job of fitting everything. I had a 4'x4' sheet of good plywood left for an "above the toilet" cabinet in my daughter's bathroom and I was able to size it and get it all on that 1/2 sheet. Pretty cool. It also makes implementing changes pretty easy. The best part: totally free!!! I love it.

Brian Henderson
07-27-2017, 5:50 PM
I don't. I've tried it several times but I never saw the point in it. I can do it faster, easier and better on paper and get on to actual woodworking. I'm not producing plans for anyone, I'm building for myself. Besides, Sketch-Up wasn't designed for woodworking, it was designed for architecture. It's been kludged, badly, for woodworking, but it really doesn't do as much as I want it to do, what would make it actually useful to me. So I don't bother. YMMV.

Dave Richards
07-27-2017, 6:16 PM
It's been kludged, badly, for woodworking, but it really doesn't do as much as I want it to do, what would make it actually useful to me. So I don't bother. YMMV.

Really? So what is it you want it to do that it doesn't?

So far I haven't found any problems using it for woodworking. A few examples (https://www.flickr.com/photos/8294157@N08/albums/72157623525939941) here.

John K Jordan
07-27-2017, 6:29 PM

I use it on occasion, especially when someone wants an illustration for a worthy purpose. For example, one friend was putting together a document on how to make a cheap sharpening system for lathe tools. It had been 10 years since I used Sketchup so I got a copy, immersed myself in my old Sketchup book (hardly anything had changed in all those years of "improvements") and made a set of illustrations under a self-imposed deadline, here are a few in case you are interested:

364793 364794 364795 364796

I also used it to design my new peacock house and some illustrations for woodturnings.

I did buy a few more books but the best one is the old Sketchup Book for version 5, no longer available AFAIK.

I'm 67 and not nearly as able to retain new things as I was at, say, 50. I do have an advantage in having built and retired from a career doing technical and scientific 3D modeling, illustrations, and animations with 3D Studio Max. I also did internet support for Autodesk/Discreet/Kinetix for years.

Not a lot of that applied to Sketchup, though, since 3DS max is FAR more logically designed (by a true wizard and team of geniuses!), and probably a 1000 times more capable! In comparison, even the Pro version of Sketchup is a painfully limited program - many, many functions are needlessly convoluted and frustrating and some are just plain stupid, IMHO. (Of course 3DSMax was over $3000 even way back then.) The only reason I don't use 3DSMax now is the computer I used quit booting a few years after I retired and I never bothered to fix it - I'm having too much fun driving the tractor and feeding the llamas. :)

The biggest thing Sketchup has going for it are the inference snaps - very useful, although accessing some consistently is tricky!

All that said, Sketchup is still a useful tool for simple things. One thing that helped my efficiency was to set a bunch of carefully considered keyboard shortcuts so the commands/tools I used the most didn't require moving the cursor and clicking on a toolbar. Working from a toolbar or menu is probably the single biggest bottleneck to working efficiently.

If you have any specific questions about Sketchup things don't hesitate to ask. I don't use it a lot and might not know but might be able to figure it out.

Just for fun, this is the kind of thing I did a lot with 3DSMax (and a shot of one end of my basement studio where I did the work). I've seen some of my things in magazines and on covers, on CBS news (OJ Simpson stuff), printed on 10' displays, in courtrooms, in congressional briefings, and on the Discovery channel - good clean fun!

364797 364798 364799


George Adams
07-27-2017, 7:32 PM
Nope, I enjoy the whole process of my shop results.......Just thinking about what I want to do is a blast and sitting down and putting down on paper what I figure in my head is an enjoyable endeavor. I've always kept things on the hobby level and any time spent in enjoyment is well spent. I'm sure the guys,,,and gals with family,regular job,,woodworking as a side ect. get into Sketchup..I've looked at it a few times and it's easy to see the value in it...

Jim Becker
07-27-2017, 8:28 PM
I use it from time to time to be able to visualized a project for proportion and style. I don't create detailed drawings; rather, I establish major dimensions and work from there measuring off the actual piece to determine final dimensions of sub-components. SketchUp is really great for what I use it for and a whole lot more that I don't use it for. But yes, there is a learning curve for both "technical" things and "conceptual" things. The latter sometimes gives folks a challenge in my observation.

Alan Caro
07-27-2017, 8:52 PM
Al Launier,

Sketchup does take some time to use propoerly, but in my uses: architecture and industrial design, a 3D model that can be viewed from any angle, disassembled, and modified is extremely useful.

Although I've been working on a 5-story building that is 900' long:



This project has a lot of furniture /cabinet design:


> A current project is more useful to demonstrate working in the woodworking project scale. This is a computer desk and music workstation, ideally a design that can be converted from one to the other very quickly. This also had to be relatively simple to make.

In the first version, the conversion involved pulling the MIDI controller out on wheeled cart, next , by lifting a panel, and finally, by sliding a panel back. This was very easy to draw as I can make each part a "Component". The computer, printer, monitors, and keyboard are all accurately to scale to test the fit. Every time a change is made to that components all the other copies are automatically updated. I can then copy the "kit of parts" into different combinations. Here is the sequence of the ideas:


And, I can lay the parts on the sheets of marine plywood to test the efficiency of the materials' use.

And by copying the groups and moving the parts, I can make a version showing the top pushed back and a left /right reversed version took only 5 minutes:


As I worked on this, I eventually made a more accurate model of the MIDI controller, a StudioLogic SL88:


The first version is simply a box to scale with pictures of each side pasted on, so as to test the fit. The more accurate version is done the same way, but with the three dimensional aspects articulated:


The 3D keyboard in this model is from the Sketchup "3D Warehouse", which has thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of free models. This includes everything from bolts and screws to ships and houses. Using 3D warehouse, I made a model of a liquid cooled control computer that is incorporated into a current industrial design project:


So, it's possible to make drawings on all kinds of levels. It is really quite easy to do the basic work make a rectangle, extrude it into 3D, apply a color, texture, or make it glass, make it a group and component, then make the next thing. At the end, apply dimensions.

Get the free version and just start hitting the buttons- that's how I learned. And when you run into something that's more complex to do, there is a very active Sketchup forum, thousands of YouTube videos, and a lot of enthusiasts to help.

Alan Caro

Harry Hagan
07-27-2017, 9:16 PM
Among SketchUpís many uses, landscape design is one of my favorites. No more guessing how much of this or that or what it will look like.

I imported a copy of my plat to scale and have used it many times to plan layouts for plant beds, a patio, side walks, a driveway,etc. Itís very useful in computing surface areas and fill volumes for irregular shapes of plant beds and patios when youíre calculating how many pavers, how much sand, dense grade, mulch etc.

Iíve also used it to plan several irrigation systems.

Al Launier
07-28-2017, 9:57 AM
Al, I'm sure you already know I use SketchUp mainly for woodworking projects although not exclusively and you may know that I'm a authorized SketchUp trainer. If it's something you want to get to terms with, feel free to get in touch and I'll help you.

That said, if it doesn't really interest you, there's no point in beating yourself up about it. There's no pressure to use SketchUp or any other CAD software. If you can get what you need with a pencil stub on the back of an envelope, stick with that. Do what works for you.

Thanks Dave, good of you to offer. Actually the SketchUp I have is "SketchUP Guide for Woodworkers - The Basics with Dave Richards" which I purchased from you (Customer 000112824447) on 01/11/2013.

The problem I seem to have is not the technical aspect of learning/using it's that my patience for sitting down for any period of time has diminished significantly as I penetrate deeper into seniority (~75). Also, the projects I do not make projects for income, I do woodworking strictly for pleasure & to pass the time. The projects tend to be smaller than perhaps what most of you do, so that I feel I would spend an inordinate amount of time developing the design when I could make it from mind or sketches.

I have always enjoyed design work, ranging from mechanical projects to house designs for local builders. There was always satisfaction in developing these designs, but their level of sophistication and complexity significantly exceeded my hobbyist projects. So, even if I were to pursue SketchUP just for the sake of it, I doubt if I would use frequently enough to say "boy am I glad I took the time to learn it".

However, I may find myself bored during the winter season with few projects and then decide to learn SketchUp & use it as a pass-time.

Thanks again for your offer.

Dave Richards
07-28-2017, 10:48 AM
Al, I understand. If you decide this winter that you are ready to do something with SketchUP and you want a hand, you know how to get in touch with me. In the meantime, keep moving and doing what you do.

You must have bought the DVD from Taunton, right? I don't have anything to do with the sales of them. I am not a Taunton Press employee. Thanks for buying it, though.

glenn bradley
07-28-2017, 11:16 AM
I will add that I learned as much from watching "how" Dave was doing things on the 'Basics' DVD and I did from watching what he was doing. I picked up a number of navigation and tool selection techniques by watching between the lines :)